Enable is calling on the Scottish Government to seize an “historic” chance to protect the rights of people with learning disabilities in new legislation.
The charity made the announcement during Scottish Learning Disability Week at the launch of its Rights Now! campaign, where the new Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport, Maree Todd MSP, met people with learning disabilities, their families and supporters.
Supported by Acorns to Trees, Rights Now! urges the Scottish Government to maintain its commitment to introduce a new Learning Disability, Autism and Neurodiversity (LDAN) Bill in the Scottish Parliament. The charity is appealing for the new laws to bring increased protection and promotion of the rights of Scotland’s 175,000 citizens who have learning disabilities.
Enable - Scotland's largest charity for people with learning disabilities – also used the event to reveal the results of a survey which shows members of the community it supports feel increasingly isolated from society through a lack of crucial support and access to key services.
Current evidence suggests the employment rate for people with learning disabilities is extremely low, while the average life expectancy of someone with a learning disability is shockingly 20 years shorter than those without.
With people in this group also twice as likely to die from preventable illnesses, Enable is making the case for a Commissioner role to be enshrined in the LDAN Bill to protect people’s rights and to hold public bodies to account if those rights are not upheld.
The Rights Now! campaign calls for new legislation which enshrines and protects:
Enable CEO, Theresa Shearer, said: “For almost 70 years, Enable has campaigned for an equal society where everyone has the right to live, work and participate as active and respected citizens. Yet too many people with learning disabilities still do not receive the self-directed social care in their community which should be their entitlement; employability services which could give them the opportunity to secure a job and contribute in inclusive workplaces; or the support they need at school and in the community to be active, connected and engaged.
“We are pleased the Scottish Government shares our view that new legislation is needed to protect and promote the rights of people with learning disabilities. This is an historic opportunity to bring forward a Bill which ensures the rights of people with learning disabilities are recognised, respected and real – now, and for the generations to come.”
The survey results identified loneliness, social care, education, employment and transitions as areas of life where people with a learning disability lacked support. Meanwhile, a staggering 97% of respondents also backed Enable’s call for a commissioner role to be in place to uphold their rights.
Peter McMahon is a long-standing member of the Enable community and was at the event at the University of Strathclyde to back the charity’s calls for action.
“I’ve had a learning disability all my life and now have to deal with a visual impairment, which has drastically increased the daily challenges I face,” said Peter.
“With the cost of living crisis and a general lack of support and understanding for people in my situation, there has never been a more important time to give the vulnerable people in our community a voice.
“Our rights are not properly recognised so new laws are very important. Having a commissioner would also make the public services we rely on take notice of the challenges we face and make life fairer for all.”
The Fraser of Allander Institute also addressed the event as it published a new report on the need for better evidence and data on the challenges people with learning disabilities face.
Emma Congreve, Deputy Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde, said: “We continue to be deeply concerned that in many areas of public life learning disabilities are absent from discussion and invisible when it comes to relevant data. Improving the quality and quantity of information that is collected and shared is a critical step to ensure those with learning disabilities are able to get the right support.
“We have identified three initial actions that could take place in the short-term to support the continuous improvement of the evidence base in Scotland. These are discussed in our new reports launched this week, as we redouble our efforts to understand what can be improved and put forward solutions that we believe will make the biggest difference.”